House passes \$9.7bn Hurricane Sandy Aid Bill

House passes \$9.7bn Hurricane Sandy Aid Bill

US leaders overwhelmingly approved the first large aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy that hit the Northeast two months ago, days after failure to vote on it caused a political uproar.

The newly-seated House of Representatives, sworn in the day before, voted 354 to 67 on Friday to pass a \$9.7bn (£6bn) measure to pay flood insurance claims.

The bill cleared the Senate later on Friday.

That is just a fraction of the total \$60bn (£37bn) requested by the hardest-hit states for rebuilding efforts.

A vote on Sandy aid by the outgoing, Republican-controlled House was put off earlier this week.

It led to New Jersey's famously outspoken Republican governor, Chris Christie, lashing out at his own party and joining New York's Democratic governor and others in calling the delay a "disgrace."

House Speaker John Boehner assured the angry lawmakers that votes on the states' entire request would be held by mid-January.

Sandy caused 120 deaths in several states - most in New York and New Jersey - when it struck in late October.

It was the most costly US natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Lawmakers have complained that it took just 10 days for Congress to approve about \$50bn (£31bn) in aid for Katrina.

"People are waiting to be paid," said New Jersey Representative Frank LoBiondo, whose district includes the casino-filled Atlantic City and many other coastal communities.

"They're sleeping in rented rooms on cots somewhere, and they're not happy. They want to get their lives back on track, and it's cold outside. They see no prospect of relief."

The storm ripped apart the famed New Jersey shore and parts of the New York City area coastline, leaving thousands of people homeless.

About 140,000 Sandy-related flood insurance claims have been filed, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said, with about 115,000 still pending.

Many flood victims have only received partial payments.

FEMA has warned that the National Flood Insurance Program will run out of money next week if Congress does not provide additional borrowing authority to pay out claims.

Congress created the scheme in 1968 because few private insurers cover flood damage.

Superstorm Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey.

In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected.

More than \$2bn (£1.2bn) of federal money has been spent so far on relief efforts.


By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes